chapter  7
14 Pages

Fighting the 'multitudinous amazonian army'

The surgeon at the lock hospital recalled that at night the brothels were brilliantly lit up, and sounds of 'riot were to be heard at all hours'. He added that soliciting was so impudent and indiscreet that in many parts of the city pedestrians were driven off the pavement and forced to walk in the middle of the road. 3 Most people regarded the presence of these women as a nuisance to be endured. Therefore, prior to 1870 the police seldom interfered with brothels unless sent to investigate a crime or theft said to have been committed by the inhabitants.4 Legislation granting municipal authorities the power to suppress brothels and soliciting was included in the Police Act of 1843, which was amended in 1862 and again in 1866. The Acts, however, remained a 'dead letter' until McCall was made Chief Constable in 1870.5

street soliciting and brothels used in Glasgow after 1870 can be largely attributed to the initiative of the directors of the Glasgow Magdalene Institution. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the operation of the Glasgow system. It is argued that from among the competing mid-century discourses on prostitution one account and one remedy became hegemonic, that of the Glasgow system, with its particular emphasis on the 'magdalene'. Its development was due to the coalition of moral entrepreneurs - doctors, businessmen, and senior police officials - who were in a position not merely to investigate, agitate, and speculate, but to see their ideas embodied in the interlocking apparatuses of the police, Lock Hospital, and Magdalene Institution.